Daniel Zimmer will do almost anything to end his pain—except for the one thing that might work.
Growing up in 1970s Brooklyn under the shadow of his tyrannical father and against the backdrop of the Son of Sam murders, the Karen Ann Quinlan tragedy, and the New York Yankee’s back-to-back championship seasons, Daniel Zimmer struggles to find a sense of safety and belonging. Daniel and his brother Max find moments of solace in the rebellious rhythms of early punk and metal bands like the Ramones and Judas Priest. But when faced with an unexpected family tragedy—for which he feels responsible—Daniel discovers the magical escape that alcohol can provide, numbing his pain and guilt.
Carrying the trauma of his youth into adulthood, Daniel falls deeper into alcoholism as he fights to face life on life’s terms. Then, just as he finally begins to embrace sobriety, Max attempts suicide and Daniel’s ex-fiancée makes an unexpected reappearance. Forced to face his demons head-on, Daniel struggles to take it “one day at a time.”
Flashing through Daniel’s life, past and present, this nostalgic ode to Brooklyn is an unflinchingly honest account of the inevitable ups and downs of recovery and coming of age. Ultimately, it is a story of the ravages of generational abuse and the power of recognizing addiction and opening the door to the possibilities of redemption.
Read on for an interview with Michael Eon, author of These Things Happen.
Q. Why did you begin journaling about your memories and experiences with addiction?
A. In college, I wrote a great deal of freeform poetry about active addiction and its hold on me, as well as what I believed at the time to be the causes for my desire, since childhood, to escape and numb my emotions through drug and alcohol use. Twenty years later, consumed by active addiction, rage, hatred, and hopelessness, I sought help through Alcoholics Anonymous. After a few years in a state of what I would call “stark raving sober,” I finally got the courage to ask someone to take me through the Twelve Steps as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. As part of that process, I began to explore in greater detail and depth the moments of my life—the memories and experiences—that seemed to govern my existence . . . my emotions, character, and personality.
Q. How did your journal entries evolve into the creation of These Things Happen?
A. Part of the Twelve Step process includes examining the things in one’s life that have served to hold a person back from spiritual growth. Resentment and fear are the two main offenders and consequently need to be dealt with before any semblance of peace can be had. The Twelve Step process enabled me to understand that these issues were the root cause of my dis-ease, not the drinking and the drugs. My journal took the writing I’d completed in Step Four and fleshed it out into memory stories—expanded autobiographical scenes as I had remembered them. As you can imagine, there was a lot of anger, resentment, denial, guilt, etc. in those entries, but the end result was extremely cathartic. These scenes served as the starting point for the novel.
Q. Tell us a little bit about the culture of alcoholics anonymous, how did the culture of AA support the creation of this novel?
A. For me, AA is a lot of things: a fellowship, a support group, a process by which to become both physically and emotionally sober, and much more. It is a spiritual program that allows for identification with others suffering from the same affliction through sharing with one another and reading/understanding the literature, including the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. For those willing to be honest with themselves (and others), and open-minded to the spiritual principles set forth in the Twelve Steps, AA can be a life-changer. It can not only free one from the bondage of active addiction, but can also teach one how to deal with life on life’s terms. Without AA, this novel would not have been possible because I would never have been able to escape active addiction and work through the trauma that served as the basis for my addiction.
Q. The book deals with heavy topics of addiction, trauma, and mental health. Why did you decide to write about these topics and what do you hope readers take away from the book?
A. I decided to write about these topics for two main reasons: one, I have a great deal of experience with them; and two, I have a sincere desire to help others who struggle with addiction and, more generally, with life itself. The novel has sought to do this by focusing not just on the problems one faces with addiction and life, but on the solution to those problems, which I do by giving specific instructions on how to use spiritual principles to better one’s life. And you don’t have to be an addict to benefit from this novel. Dealing with life on life’s terms is not just an addict’s problem—it is a human problem.
Q. What are you working on next?
A. I’m working on another novel, a psychological thriller about a spree killer who was never caught, one of his victims who survived, and a rare bookseller who specializes in murderabilia, all of whom are addicts in recovery and whose lives intersect fatefully years later.
Originally from the New York area, he currently lives in New Hampshire with his family. Michael earned his BA in psychology from the University of Michigan and an MA in international affairs from Columbia University. A former board member of the Audio Publishers Association and a former producer of major motion pictures and television productions, Michael worked in the publishing and entertainment industries for more than twenty years. Michael discovered the core of this story through the cathartic processing of autobiographical memories, following its evolution into this novel of redemption and recovery. These Things Happen is his first novel. Learn more about Michael at his website.